Leonora hit the erase button. There were no other messages.
Thomas Walker had not called to apply pressure. She had no business feeling so . . . so deflated. This was a game of brinksmanship, not seduction, for heaven’s sake.
Damn. Now she was thinking about sex. What had made her think about sex?
Sex should be the last thing on her mind tonight. But it wasn’t.
Thomas did not call the following evening, either. Instead of being relieved, she grew increasingly uneasy. Something told her he was not the type to just give up. He was still playing the waiting game, letting the suspense work on her nerves.
She would not be the one who blinked first.
Two days later she awoke from a restless sleep feeling groggy and out of sorts. She didn’t fire up her laptop to check her email until after she had made a strong pot of Dragon Well green tea.
There was only one message.
It was from Meredith.
The message line read “From beyond the grave . . .”
She could almost hear Meredith going heh, heh, heh as she wrote the words.
If you’re reading this, I’m dead. Bummer. I set this message up to send to you only if I wasn’t around to cancel it. Creepy thought, isn’t it? What really bothers me the most is that it means your grandmother was right when she said that I was going to come to a bad end. Hope I went out in a blaze of glory.
I’ll cut to the chase here. I hereby bequeath to you all my worldly possessions. There are about a million and a half of them. Not bad, for a small-time operator like me, hmm? My biggest score ever.
You’ll find your inheritance in an offshore account in the Caribbean. Given that email is not exactly the most secure form of communication I won’t write out the magic number that you’ll need to access the account. There’s a safe-deposit key on its way to you. In addition to the number of the account there are a couple of other items in the box.
A word of advice. There are some folks out there who will be a tad upset when they find out what I’ve been up to lately. (What else is new?) If anyone comes around asking about me, just say you haven’t seen me since I wrecked your engagement. By the way, I still think that I did you a huge favor. By now Kyle would have cheated on you with someone else. Trust me, I know men.
One more thing, if for any reason things turn nasty call a man named Thomas Walker. You can reach him at the number below. He and I were an item for a while and if he figures out what I did he’ll be really pissed off. Some men have no sense of humor, you know? Nevertheless, he’s one of a rare breed: a man you can trust.
Here’s hoping you’ll miss me once in a while. I know I caused some trouble but we had some good times, too, didn’t we? Sorry we didn’t get a chance to say good-bye.
Leonora gazed at the email message for a long time. She was still staring at it when the doorbell chimed.
The overnight delivery person handed her an envelope. She signed for it, took it into the front room and opened it. There was a safe-deposit key inside and the address of a San Diego bank.
She was at the door of the bank when it opened.
An hour later she dialed Thomas Walker’s number.
He answered on the second ring.
“We need to talk,” Leonora said.
She had called.
Relief mingled with a roaring exhilaration. The suspense of wondering if he had miscalculated had kept him awake again last night. Thomas wasn’t sure he could have played the waiting game much longer.
But Leonora Hutton had lost her nerve and called first. He had won.
He leaned back in the swivel chair, phone to his ear, and gazed unseeingly at the details of the bond account he had called up on his computer. He had just sat down to earn his daily bread when the phone had rung.
Remodeling houses was his passion, but it was a tough way to make a decent living, especially when you put as much into the craftsmanship and materials end of the business as he liked to do. He had a good eye for the architectural bones of a house and he stuck to the three fundamental laws of real estate—location, location, location—when he bought his fixer-uppers. Nevertheless, he rarely made a killing when he sold. He was lucky to clear expenses and make a few thousand on the plus side of the column.
When it came to earning real money, he did it the easy way, at least the way that was easy for him: He invested.
His first major investment had occurred when he had sold one of his remodeled houses and used all of the profits as venture capital to fuel Deke’s fledging little software company. Two years later the firm had been bought out by one of the major players in a bid to acquire Deke’s revolutionary security program.
Thomas and Deke had both come out of the deal with a whole new perspective on life, the perspective of young men who could afford to retire before they reached thirty.
Thomas had chosen to study the markets in an effort to ensure their newfound financial security did not dissipate. Deke had gone back to school, gotten some fancy degrees and accepted a position as a professor in the computer science department at Eubanks College.
Deke said Thomas had a near-paranormal talent for making money in stocks and bonds. He didn’t know about the paranormal part. All he knew was that he was good at seeing trends before they took hold. With the aid of some software that Deke had designed to meet his specifications, he had gotten even better at it. These days he only had to spend a couple of hours a day at the computer to keep the investment portfolio tuned up and humming along.
The rest of the time he was free to fool around with his tools.
“I’m glad you’ve decided to cooperate,” he said to Leonora. He was careful to keep all signs of the satisfaction he was feeling out of his voice. “Mind if I ask what made you decide to get in touch?”
Stretched out on the floor beside the desk, Wrench abruptly raised his head and looked very intently at him. Maybe he hadn’t managed to keep all emotion out of his words, after all.
“It’s a long story,” Leonora said. “The bottom line is that Meredith says I can trust you.”
He went cold. “Meredith’s dead.”
Wrench hauled himself to his feet and put his head on Thomas’s knee. Absently, Thomas reached down to scratch him behind the ears.
“I got what you might call a time-release last will and testament note in my email this morning,” Leonora said. “She wrote it before she died and arranged to have it sent in the event anything happened to her.”